Becky Edwards, a former Utah House member, stopped in southern Utah during her summer Yellow Couch Tour of the state last weekend.
The Yellow Couch tour was launched as a way for Edwards to connect with Utahns across the state, as she challenges the incumbent Senator Mike Lee for the Republican nomination in the 2022 Senate race, all while sitting on a yellow couch.
During the tour, Edwards took time to meet with The Spectrum and talk about her candidacy, the GOP and the issues facing the state
The idea for the tour was based on her time as a Utah state representative where she would invite constituents to her living room to sit on the yellow couch to discuss issues, now she uses the couch as a symbol.
“It’s not just a couch, it’s a symbol,” she said. “It’s a symbol of listening to people to work for better solutions.”
This tour had two stops in Washington County, one Friday night in Hurricane and another Saturday morning in St. George. Edwards suspects she will bring that couch to all parts of the state right until the “bitter end” of her campaign to be the Republican nominee, the primary is scheduled for June 2022.
Edwards does have political experience and served as a state representative for Utah’s 20th district which covers an area just north of Salt Lake City for 10 years and sees herself as a moderate willing to work across the aisle to get her goals accomplished. Edwards thinks that is the job for elected officials to work together and not turn problems into partisan politics.
“I honestly think that’s what people want to see, they want to see more of people doing their job,” she said. ”Which is to sit down at the table until the job is done.”
Setting herself as a moderate does have some drawbacks, as Edwards has already had multiple attack mailers sent out criticizing her time in the Utah House especially around taxes. The mailers were sent by the Club for Growth Action Fund, a conservative Super PAC that has previously supported Lee in his previous election campaigns, reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.
One of these mailers was sent a day before she announced her candidacy, Edwards views these attacks as a sign her candidacy has real traction.
“I think to a great extent it shows a concern that a lot of people have and the desire they have to maintain the status quo,” she said. “I view them as a distraction from the real issues that matter to people.”
For the St. George area and southern Utah Edwards sees certain issues as critical to address such as housing affordability, manageable growth, improving air quality, water management, education and the changing climate.
Edwards says she has the legislative skills to make progress on these issues and points to the passage of HCR-007 as an example of her work as a legislator.
HCR-007 is a resolution that formally acknowledges climate change as a problem and says the state government should encourage and incentivize solutions to help curb the effects of climate change.
Edwards was the bill sponsor for this resolution. She said she took the initial outline of the resolution from a Democrat who was going nowhere with it and discussed with students to re-work the language of the resolution to get it passed in the House.
She also views the story of HCR-007 and her time in the Utah House as a success story for classical conservatism, which focuses on limiting government on most levels and allowing for as much local control as possible.
This style of conservatism has been less popular than partisan conservatism that attacks Democrats and creates division, according to Edwards. The Pew Research Center describes America as one of the most ideologically divided countries in the world, with nearly 80% of both voter-registered Democrats and Republicans saying their differing viewpoints are about core American Values.
If Edwards wins the primary, she hopes it’s a sign the Republican party is turning back to classical conservatism and away from partisan attacks that she thinks divides the nation.
Edwards will have the challenging task of unseating an incumbent senator, something that hasn’t been done in Utah since Lee beat out the former Senator Robert Bennet in the Republican primary in 2010.
During the 2010 campaign, Lee advocated for term limits as a means for limited government and attacked Bennet for being a three-term senator. On Jan. 6, 2017, Lee continued to advocate for term limits through a blog post on his website supporting term limits but not self-imposed ones.
“Instead of intimidating voters into supporting the candidate with a proven record of maximizing their share of government spoils, Americans should be empowered to choose the candidate they think is best suited to help preserve our government of, by, and for the people,” said Lee.
However, Lee won’t put a self-imposed term limit on himself since he doesn’t want the term limit movement to fade away into nothing, according to his post on term limits. Edwards says Lee not self-imposing a two-term limit hurts the trust of elected officials and that she’ll be a strong proponent of term limits. Edwards thinks that she’ll help Lee in a way if she wins the primary.
“I sort of view this in one sense as I’m helping Senator Lee keep his word [on term limits],” said Edwards.
In 2018, Edwards decided not to run for re-election because at the beginning of her career as a state representative she promised herself to stay for 10 years.
“At the height of my position and influence, if you will, I stepped down. I said I’d do it and kept my word and that’s what I plan to do in the U.S. Senate,” Edwards said. “It’s not just talk, I’ve done it.”
The primary for the 2022 election will be on June 28, 2022, just under 330 days away.
Sean Hemmersmeier covers local government, growth and development in Southwestern Utah, our work depends on subscribers so if you want more coverage on these issues you can subscribe here http://www.thespectrum.com/subscribe.